Shellfish and The California Tribes

Long before the arrival of Europeans, the Pacific Ocean provided the Indian Nations of California with an abundance of shellfish: clam, abalone, mussel, olivella, and dentalium. These provided not only food, but the shells were the raw material for beads, jewelry, currency, and fishhooks.

Archaeology has found that clamshells – Saxidomus nuttalli and Tivela stultorum – have been used to make beads since about 1200 AD. Clamshell beads were traded inland into central California and Nevada. The clamshell beads, also called clam disc beads, are flat, white, and round. They are drilled in the center and can be up to one inch in diameter. Some of the clamshell beads made by the Coast Miwok were tiny and a great deal of work was required to grind them to a small size. Therefore, these small clamshell beads were not worn as casual or ornamental jewelry, but were considered to be a form of wealth which could be given to others or inherited.

The Coast Miwok traded clamshell beads and abalone shells to the Wappo and Pomo for obsidian. Clamshell beads were also used as a kind of money which could be used to pay for songs and prayers, dancers, doctors, and instruction in special skills. Among the Coast Miwok, men tended to be the beadmakers.

Olivella shells (Olivella biplacata) were either strung whole for jewelry or they were used for making small sequins for decorating ceremonial items. Unlike the clamshell beads, beads made from olivella were not used for money. Their use by the Hoopa, Yurok, Karuk, Wiyot, and Miwok was primarily ornamental.

Hupa Shaman

Shown above is a photograph of a Hupa shaman by Edward Curtis. Notice the shell beads.

Olivella beads were also used on baskets. Some of the large coiled baskets displayed in some museums have designs in white sequin-sized beads. Each of the beads was stitched in place as the basket was woven.

Many different species of abalone are found in the Pacific waters. Abalone meat was considered a delicacy and the shells were made into large ornaments, fishhooks, and beads.


Shown above is a Wishram woman photographed by Edward Curtis who is wearing a dentalia bridal shell headdress and earrings.  

Dentalium hexagonum is a shell which is shaped like a small tusk. While it is not native to the California area (it is found off Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada) it was widely used by the California Indians for money, ornaments, necklaces, pendants, and earrings.

In California there were two different types of shell beads. The first of these were the “money” beads which could be obtained by selling goods (both food and manufactured products such as baskets). “Money” beads could be used by anyone. Among the Yurok, Karuk, and Hupa, dentalium could be used as a kind of money for arranging marriages, settling debts, and in other situations. The shells were usually kept in long strings.  There were some individuals who had lines tattooed on their arms for measuring the strings of beads.

The Chumash also manufactured the flat shell beads which were used as a form of currency throughout California.  

The second type of shell beads were associated with social class or rank. In northern California, wealth permeated every aspect of the Native American cultures and great importance was placed on the accumulation and display of personal wealth.

Cherokee Families

When the Europeans arrived in North America, they simply assumed that their concept of family was universal, moral, natural, and divinely-inspired. If there were any other kinds of families they must be immoral and inferior. For the Europeans, family implied a male-dominated institution, one run by the male in the household and whose children belonged to him. When Europeans encountered the Cherokee family, they: (a) were simply oblivious to the differences and superimposed their own concepts on it; (b) were totally baffled by the differences; and/or (c) assumed that the Cherokee family was immoral and unnatural.  

The Cherokee:

At the time of European contact, the Cherokee were divided into three broad groups: (1) the Lower Towns along the rivers in South Carolina, (2) the Upper or Overhill Towns in eastern Tennessee and northwestern North Carolina, (3) the Middle Towns which included the Valley Towns in southwestern North Carolina and northeastern Georgia and the Out Towns. There were some cultural and linguistic differences between these groups. The Cherokee language is a part of the Iroquoian language family.


Understanding the Cherokee family begins with an understanding of Cherokee clans. First of all, clans are not just a bunch of people who are somehow vaguely related to each other. Clans are corporate entities with names, traditions, oral history, and membership rules. Traditionally, the Cherokee were a farming people and the fields were farmed by the clans. The land was owned by the village and allocated to the clans.

Membership in a Cherokee clan is determined by the mother: you belong to your mother’s clan. Among the Cherokee, as with many other American Indian tribes, clan membership is the most important thing a person has and was the most fundamental of Cherokee rights. To be without a clan is to be without identity as a Cherokee.

The Cherokee had seven clans:

Blue: (A ni sa ho ni) Also known as the Panther or Wild Cat clan

Long Hair: (A ni gi lo hi) The Peace Chief was usually from this clan

Bird: (A ni tsi s kwa)

Paint: (A ni wo di) Many of the medicine people were from this clan

Deer: (A ni ka wi)

Wild Potato: (A ni ga to ge wi) Also known as the Bear, Racoon, or Blind Savannah clan

Wolf: (A ni wa yah) Many war chiefs came from this clan


Among the Cherokee, individuals were not allowed to marry members of their own clan or members of their father’s clan. They were, however, encouraged to marry members of their maternal grandfather’s clan or their paternal grandfather’s clan. In general, marriage was regulated by the women of the village. This does not mean that women were told who to marry. No relative-not her mother, nor her uncles, nor her brothers-had any compulsory authority over her.

Premarital chastity was unusual and there were no cultural prohibitions against fornication or adultery. Cherokee women determined with whom they would have sexual relations. Cherokee marriage was not seen as binding on either the husband or wife. Married Cherokee women also enjoyed great latitude with regard to sexual freedom. Women were free to dissolve a marriage at will.

Cherokee women resided with their kinswomen, that is, with members of their own clan. They owned the homes and shared in the agricultural products of the clan’s fields.

Cherokee men often married women from outside of their own village. The men were expected to live in their wives’ village. Women, of course, owned the house.

The Cherokee wedding ceremony was brief and simple: it involved an exchange of gifts. It was not a religious ceremony and often involved only the two clans involved.

Fathers and Uncles:

Fathers had no official relationship to their children because their children belonged to a different clan. Fathers might love their children and provide them with some care, but still the children belonged to the mother’s clan. A father did not have the right to punish his children. In fact, if a father were to harm his children, the children’s clan (that is, the clan of their mother) could hold him responsible.

The traditional roles of uncles-more specifically, the mother’s brothers-were very important in traditional Cherokee culture. Traditional Cherokee education was based on the role of the maternal uncles. For a young boy, this meant that the most important men in his childhood were his uncles, not his father. It was his maternal uncle who would teach him about warfare and hunting. The uncle was the disciplinary and tutorial authority within the clan.

The designation “maternal uncle” was also different in Cherokee society than in European society. This simply indicated that the man was a member of the mother’s clan. The maternal uncle did not have to have the same mother as the mother.

Ancient Mesoamerica: The King of El Zotz

About 350 CE, the Maya city of El Zotz was founded in what is now Guatemala. The Maya name for the city is Pa’Chan which is translated as “Split Sky” or as “Citadel Sky.” The designation “El Zotz” comes from the many bats living in the caves on the site: zotz is the Maya term for bats.  

El Zotz is located about 20 miles (12 kilometers) from the major Maya center of Tikal and about 16 miles (26 kilometers) from Uaxactun. The emblem glyph for El Zotz associates it with the Maya city of Yaxchilan in Chiapas, Mexico and may indicate that the Yaxchilan royal dynasty originated in El Zotz.

The hieroglyphic texts associated with El Zotz suggest that the site was founded by the enemies of Tikal who wanted to exploit a period of weakness in this important Maya city. El Zotz was strategically located between two rival Maya kingdoms: Tikal and the alliance of El Perú and Calakmul. There is a possibility that El Zotz was established as an outpost for the El Perú/Calakmul alliance.

There are two major ceremonial sites at El Zotz: one at the central core of the city and one on the western edge. The western ceremonial center has been designated as El Diablo (The Devil). The pyramid at El Diablo rises 623 feet (160 meters) above the valley floor. The solid platform base of the pyramid is 76 feet by 85 feet (23 meters by 26 meters) and above this are two or three narrower terraces with a temple on top. The sides of the pyramid are very steep. When the site was occupied by the Maya, this pyramid, painted a saturated red, would have announced the presence of an important center. During the rising and setting sun, a time when the painted pyramid was brightest, it would have been visible for about 15 miles.

Archaeological excavations at El Diablo carried out in 2008 revealed stucco masks along the façade of the structure representing the various guises of the Maya sun god. The façade identified the structure as the Temple of the Night Sun. The shape of the building and its polychrome decoration are similar to the Rosalila Temple of Copán.

For the Maya, the sun was closely associated with kingship and symbols of the sun were often associated with the names of kings and their dynasties. The word for “day” is the same as the word for “sun” and the sun symbols on the Temple of the Night Sun suggest that it might be associated with the beginning of a royal dynasty.

A smaller building stands in from of the great temple. When archaeologists sank a test pit into the floor of the chamber of this building, they uncovered blood-red ceramic bowls which were filled with small packets of fingers and teeth. In one bowl the archaeologists found the remains of a partially burned baby. When archaeologists probed the floor of the chamber, they found a sealed chamber beneath the floor. Because this chamber had been sealed so tightly that air and water could not enter, the organic materials-wood, painted stucco, cord, textiles-within it had been well preserved.

The sealed chamber proved to be a royal tomb measuring about 12 feet (4 meters) by 4 feet (1.2 meters) by 6 feet (2 meters) high. In addition to the remains of an adult male, the tomb was filled with ceramics, textiles, and other ritual offerings. Also found in the tomb were the remains of six children (four of whom were infants) who appeared to have been killed in a ritual sacrifice and then placed as offerings in the tomb.

Human remains provide archaeologists with important clues about life in the past. The bones of the man in the tomb show that he was in his 50s when he died. His joints were arthritic and probably caused him some pain. Jewels had been embedded in his teeth, a sign of high rank.

For burial, the body had been dressed in the costume of a ritual dancer. This included an elaborate headdress (placed by his head) and small bells of shell with dog canine clappers which had been arranged around his waist and legs. Interpreting the symbolism of burial clothing is always problematic for archaeologists. On one hand, the costume could be an indication that he had been a ritual dancer in life. On the other hand, the costume could have been intended to help him in the next life and not be related to his past life.

The man was also laid out with an obsidian blade in his hand. While this may have been a sacrificial knife, analysis of the traces of red on the blade ruled out blood. This suggests that it may not have been actually used in sacrifices. A mirror buried with him may provide some additional clues about him: the glyphs on the back of the mirror can be translated as either “Red [missing] Turtle” or as “Great [missing] Turtle.”

So who was this man? The elaborate burial goods and the jeweled teeth suggest that he had a high rank. The proximity of his tomb to the Temple of the Night Sun, however, have led archaeologist to hypothesize that he was the founding ruler of El Zotz. They also suggest that the Temple of the Night Sun had been constructed to venerate this dead ruler. Once the burial rituals had been completed, the tomb had been sealed, a platform constructed above it, and a roofed sanctuary over it. Archaeologists found traces of burning in the sanctuary suggesting that rituals had been frequently performed at this site. A doorway through the sanctuary leads to the Temple of the Night Sun which may have been built to venerate the founding ruler. The El Diablo Pyramid was later built over the top of the temple.

It was a common practice in the Maya world to build new structures over existing structures. For archaeologists this means that digging down through existing structures often reveals earlier structures. In 2012 archaeologists began the task of uncovering and understanding the Temple of the Night Sun.  They found that the Maya builders had packed it in earth and small rocks in an attempt to preserve the earlier structure before constructing the pyramid.

Archaeologists found a frieze that wrapped around the structure. About 14 masks are included in the frieze. These masks depict a number of celestial entities including the sun. For the Maya these masks were living beings.

The Maya sun god, K’inich Ajaw, has been identified in three of the masks. Each of these masks represents the sun god at a different time of day. They are placed along the frieze relative to the time of day when the sun would have illuminated them. In the morning, the rising sun is associated with the Caribbean waters to the east. At about noon, the sun would illuminate a fearsome, blood-drinking creature and then in the evening a jaguar. In general the images in the frieze seem to represent the sun’s passage through the sky.

With regard to the importance of the stuccos, archaeologist Stephen Houston says:…

“The stuccos provide unprecedented insight into how the Maya conceived of the heavens, how they thought of the sun, and how the sun itself would have been grafted onto the identity of kings and the dynasties that would follow them.”

El Zotz continued to exist for only a few generations after the death of its founding ruler.  

Plateau Indian Beadwork (Photo Diary)

In American Indian cultures, art is not separate from daily life. Traditionally, the things people used in their everyday life-clothing, tools, housing, containers-were often decorated to enhance their beauty and their spirituality. Prior to the European invasion, the Indian people of the Plateau area-roughly the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest-decorated their clothing and other items with paintings, with beads made from shell, animal teeth, bone, and other items, and with porcupine quills. With the European invasion, new decorative elements became available to the Indians: glass beads. These beads were quickly adopted into the cultures and began to replace and supplement both painting and quilling. The Plateau Indians soon became well-known for their fine bead work. Shown below are some example of Plateau Indian beadwork which are on display at the Portland (Oregon) Art Museum.  









Beaded bags are made and used throughout the Plateau area. The beaded bags are usually made from cloth and beaded on one side only. The beadwork is an appliqué technique in which the beads lie evenly over the surface of the bag in straight rows that extend from one side of the bag to the other. The main design is beaded first and then the background is beaded around it.










The Genoa Indian School

Genoa 3

The Genoa Industrial Indian School was started in 1884 in a one-room school that had been originally built for the Pawnee before the tribe was removed from Nebraska to Oklahoma. The school had an initial enrollment of 74 students. Over time, the school would grow to have an enrollment of nearly 600 students from 10 states and more than 20 tribes. It would grow from a one-room school to 30 buildings on a campus covering 640 acres. The Genoa Industrial Indian School was the fourth non-reservation Indian boarding school established by the Indian Office (now the Bureau of Indian Affairs).  

The school facility had been abandoned when the Pawnee were forcibly removed in 1879.  The new school found that the school building was in poor repair and not really suitable. Following the popular design standards of the 1880s, the main building for the new school was a simple three-story structure with a hipped roof. Tall windows placed in pairs helped create a balanced appearance.

As with other American Indian boarding schools in the nineteenth century, the primary focus was on teaching English. Students were discouraged from speaking their Indian languages, as speaking an Indian language was seen as a hindrance to becoming civilized.

Under the assumption that Indians had to fully assimilate into American mainstream society, the federal government required Indian students to become practicing Christians. They were taught Christian theology from a Protestant perspective and were required to attend church services.  

In addition to teaching the students English, the general goal of the school was to prepare the students to enter the labor market. There was a great emphasis on the trades. Students would spend a half-day in the classroom and then a half-day working at an assigned trade.

In order to provide the students with “practical” experience, Genoa, like other Indian boarding schools during this era, utilized an outing system. In order to make the students more familiar with the non-Indian world of work, the students were put to work as farm laborers for local non-Indian farmers and as servants in non-Indian houses. The students were not paid for their labor, but their “employers” did pay a small amount to the school. In general, the school was more focused on meeting the labor needs of non-Indians than in providing an education for the students.


Genoa Indian School is shown above.

Genoa Indian News

The Indian News (shown above) was the school newspaper. It provided programs for school events as well as accounts of life at the school, placing a strong emphasis on abandoning traditional Indian culture and adopting the cultural traits of the non-Indian world.

As the Great Depression of the 1930s worsened, Indian parents became more willing to send their children to boarding schools. In 1933, the Bureau of Indian Affairs notified Indian boarding schools to enroll only the neediest of children. Soaring enrollments, encouraged by the bad economic times of the Depression, was the reason for limiting enrollment. In 1934, the government closed the Genoa Indian School.

In 1976, the Genoa Indian School was declared a State Historical Site and in 1978 it was designated as a National Historical Site. Today the Genoa US Indian School Foundation operates the facility as the Genoa U.S. Indian School Museum. The museum attracts about 3,000 visitors annually.

The only building that remains from the school is the Manual Training building which has been restored with new windows, doors, heating and air conditioning.

As a side note, the designation “Genoa” was given to the site by the Mormons who used it as a temporary settlement along the trail to Salt Lake City, Utah. It served as a way station for the Brigham Young Express and Carrying Company. A Mormon settlement was established at the site in 1857 and it was abandoned in 1859 when it became a part of the Pawnee Indian Reservation.  


The Sonoran Desert stretches across Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora (Mexico). It is a hot, dry place. It is also the homeland for Indian people who call themselves O’odham.  

Papago by Curtis

The name O’odham means “we, the people.” The Spanish, the first European people to enter the area, called them Pimas Altos meaning Upper Pima Indians. The word Pima comes from the phrase pi-nyi-match (“I don’t know”) which was often the reply which the O’odham gave to the Spanish explorers.

The O’odham speak languages which are classified as Uto-Aztecan which means that they are linguistically related to other Indian nations such as the Hopi, the Ute, the Paiute, and the Shoshone, as well as many Indian nations in Mexico.

Today, there are two basic O’odham tribes: the Akimel O’odham (River People) who live along the Gila River and the Tohono O’odham (Desert People) who live to the south in what is now the Papago Reservation.  

The Spanish, the American government and many non-Indian people have long used the name Papago in referring to the Tohono O’odham. Papago is from Papahvio-otam (“bean people”) which is the name given them by the neighboring Akimel O’odham.

According to the elders, the people have lived in the Sonoran Desert since they were created. One creation story says that Earthmaker scraped dirt from his chest and made it into a ball.

Then he stamped on it to flatten it out until it reached the edge of the sky. Then he made all of the things on the earth – the mountains, the rivers, the clouds, the animals, and the plants.

Earthmaker then made a small man with a beard and called him Eetoi. Earthmaker then made Coyote, a special being who could communicate with the supernatural. Using clay, Earthmaker then made people. The people were perfect and they did not die. However, there were too many people and soon they began fighting among themselves. Earthmaker and Eetoi then destroyed the people with a flood.

After the flood Earthmaker, Eetoi, and Coyote decided to create new people out of clay. To get just the right color, they baked the new people. Coyote’s batch was first and he burnt them black. The creators breathed life into them and then threw them away, far on the other side of the world. The second batch, made by Earthmaker, weren’t cooked long enough and they were white. The creators breathed life into them and threw them away, across the sea. The third batch, made by Eetoi, were baked nice and brown. The creators breathed life into the people and they stayed in the land where they had been created. Earthmaker gave Eetoi the title of Elder Brother.

Eetoi lives in a cave in the Baboquivari Mountains which are located southwest of Tucson, Arizona. When the people need him, that is where they find him.

Archaeologists tell us that the O’odham are the descendents of the Hohokam who were farming in the Phoenix area and along the rivers in southern Arizona more than a thousand years ago.

The homeland of the O’odham people was first claimed by the Spanish under the European concept of discovery which states that Christians have the right to claim and govern all non-Christian nations. In 1821, O’odham land became a part of Mexico and under the Mexican constitution they became Mexican citizens. In 1854, the United States bought much of the O’odham territory from Mexico. The O’odham were neither consulted nor told about this sale. Under American law, the O’odham lost their citizenship. Many of the O’odham simply ignored American jurisdiction and continued to claim their Mexican citizenship.

The United States did not purchase all of the O’odham territory from Mexico. As a consequence, the O’odham, like a number of other Indian nations, has to contend with an international border which divides its people. While most O’odham today live in the United States, there are still many O’odham who live in the Mexican state of Sonora.

Without negotiating a treaty with the O’odham or consulting with them, the United States simply extended federal Indian policy to them. In 1857 the government appointed the first Indian agent for them.

The Tohono O’odham and the Akimel O’odham have never been at war with the United States, nor has the United States ever negotiated a treaty with them. From the very beginning of the American occupation, O’odham warriors helped the army in their battles against the Apache. From the O’odham viewpoint, the Apache were traditional enemies who had been raiding into O’odham territory for a long time. The American army, therefore, was a convenient ally to help the O’odham stop the Apache raids.

The first Papago or Tohono O’odham reservation was unofficially created in 1864 when a two square league area around the Mission San Xavier del Bac was set aside for their exclusive use. The area was officially placed under the jurisdiction of the Indian agent in 1874.

In 1912, President William Howard Taft issued an executive order creating the 47,600 acre Ak-Chin reservation in Arizona. The reservation was created in part in gratitude to the O’odham for their help in the wars against the Apache in the late 1800’s.

With the creation of the Ak-Chin Reservation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs filed for a water appropriation on behalf of the Ak-Chin Indian Community which called for a total of 70,000 acre-feet annually. Non-Indians in the area were upset about the size of the reservation and about the water appropriation. Within four months of the original executive order, President Taft issued a second executive order which reduced the size of the reservation to 21,840 acres.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued an executive order to create the 3.1 million acre Papago Reservation for the Tohono O’odham. The town of Indian Wells was renamed Sells after Indian Commissioner Cato Sells and became the headquarters for the new Indian agency. The creation of the reservation was opposed by the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, the Arizona state land commissioner, and the Pima Farm Improvement Association. On the other hand, many non-Indian cotton growers favored the establishment of the reservation. Since the cotton growers needed seasonal labor, frequency supplied by the O’odham, having the reservation provided a convenient place for these laborers during the eight or nine months when they were not needed in the cotton fields.

O'odham map

The reservation is marked in red in the map shown above.

The Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation (formerly called the Papago Reservation) located south and west of Tucson in southern Arizona is the second largest Indian reservation in the United States. It is about the size of the state of West Virginia. The boundary line for the reservation, however, excluded the eastern slope of Boboquivari Mountain, one of the most sacred areas for the O’odham.

Lots of people seem to think that Indians didn’t know about alcohol until the Europeans brought it to this continent. However, the Tohono O’odham were making an alcoholic ceremonial drink from the fruit of the saguaro cactus long before Europeans even knew that this continent existed. Called tiswin, it is drunk in conjunction with a rain ceremony-the Náwai’t. The  Náwai’t ceremony includes ritual Mocking Bird speeches, songs taught to them by the supernatural being I’itoiI which bring the clouds down. During the ceremony the people make themselves drunk, much like the plants in the rain. The consumption of large amounts of tiswin results in vomiting, a recognized ceremonial feature which is called “throwing up the clouds.”

In 1922, the Tohono O’Odham held Náwai’t ceremonies which included the ritual consumption of tiswin to break an extended drought. The Bureau of Indian Affairs had the agency police raid the villages of Big Fields and Santa Rosa where several hundred participants were dispersed. The police arrested several leaders and Keepers of the Smoke for making tiswin. While the Bureau of Indian Affairs continued to warn people about this ceremony, the Tohono O’Odham continued to hold the ceremony in secret.

There are a lot of people, including some eminent historians, who seem to think that the last military battle against Indians took place in 1890 at a place called Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Oglala Sioux in South Dakota. In fact, the American army continued its war against Indians through the rest of the nineteenth century and the twentieth century. While the Tohono O’odham have always been friendly toward the Americans, there have been a few skirmishes. One of the most interesting of these skirmishes took place in the 1940s.

The basis for these skirmishes began in 1924 when the United States Congress passed legislation giving all Indians full American citizenship. This was done without consulting with Indian people. In 1940, the United States Congress passed another bill giving Indians citizenship. While many states, including Arizona, simply ignored both citizenship bills and denied Indians the rights of citizenship, the United States government insisted that as citizens Indians must register for the draft. In 1940, at the Tohono O’odham village of Toapit, 30 men under the leadership of Pia Machita refused to register for the draft. Marshals and Indian police attempted to arrest the leader, but they were roughed up and forced to release the 84 year old Machita. The Tohono O’odham then escaped into the desert. Pia Machita eluded the American army and federal marshals until 1941.

Oral tradition among the Tohono O’odham tells of army planes bombing villages during this time in an attempt to capture the draft rebels. The army’s unofficial story, again told as oral tradition, is that they were not bombing the villages, only dropping flour sacks on them to mark them so that they could be found from the ground.

Culturally, the O’odham don’t fit the common stereotypes of Indians who lived in tipis and hunted buffalo. Instead of tipis, the O’odham lived in dome- shaped lodges made from a framework of saplings and thatched with grass and/or leafy shrubs. These lodges were 12 to 20 feet in diameter. In addition to this lodge, they also built ramadas to provide them shade. These ramadas – which are still commonly used – provided an outdoor living and cooking space.  

While the Plains Indians kept a Winter Count which recorded their history on skins, the O’odham kept calendar sticks. These sticks contained a notch for each year and then markings to show the events for the year. The calendar sticks are considered to be personal rather than tribal and so they are traditionally destroyed when the person keeping them dies. Most anthropologists consider the calendar sticks to be mnemonic devices (which help the owner remember the events) rather than a form of writing.


Papago Basket Flat

With regard to arts, the O’odham have gained a reputation for their fine basketry. The first evidence of the commercialization of O’odham basketry was seen in 1900 when the basketweavers began incorporating yucca into their baskets. Yucca is scarce and is used only in baskets which are intended to be sold to outsiders. In addition, they began making coiled baskets for the tourist market. These coiled baskets were easier to make than their traditional “tree” or plaited baskets.

Papago Basket with lid

Papago Basket

Fracking and Glacier National Park


In 1998, Congress, in its infinite wisdom, passed the National Park Service Concessions Management Improvement Act which was intended to open up the bidding process for national park concessions and make them more competitive. At the present time there are about 600 concession contracts at 120 national park units.  

While national parks are public lands, the government has traditionally given concessions to private enterprise to operate the tourist facilities-hotels, gift shops, restaurants, transportation, campground management. The concession contract for Glacier National Park in Montana is currently up for bid. According to Tristan Scott:

Prospective bidders vying for the 16-year prospectus contract, a venture that involves managing the park’s five historic lodging facilities, its food and beverage services and its retail operations, must commit a mountain of money in initial investments alone – $33 million – and will face a future rife with financial risk and costly maintenance projects due to senescent buildings and crumbling infrastructure.…

One of the companies which may be bidding for the contract is an oil and gas company which is engaged in fracking operations on the park’s eastern boundary.  

The new concession contract will go into effect on January 1, 2014. Proposal are due on March 14, 2013.

The Blackfeet Reservation:

The Blackfeet Reservation’s western boundary forms the eastern boundary of Glacier National Park. In 2006, the Blackfoot Tribal Business Council granted oil exploration and fracking leases on the western edge of the reservation to the Denver-Based Anshutz Exploration Corp, owned by Philip Frederick Anshutz, one of the richest men in the nation. Many tribal members are concerned about the impact of Anshultz’s operations on the natural resources, including clean water. Anshutz has refused to conduct a cumulative environmental assessment, something that is of great concern to officials in Glacier National Park and the National Parks Conservation Association.

Opposition to Anshutz and to fracking on the reservation has resulted in the formation of the Blackfeet Anti-Fracking Coalition on Facebook.  The Facebook group was started by Destini Vaile, a Blackfeet tribal member who has studied the fracking process and opposed full-field development on the reservation.

Dave Beck, the chair of the Native American Studies program at the University of Montana, said:

“Fracking has become a very contentious issue for the Blackfeet. The question is how to balance cultural preservation, environmental protection and economic development, and I think that is really what tribes everywhere are trying to deal with right now.”


The Concessions:

When Congress created Glacier National Park in 1910, they did not allocate any money for the development of tourist facilities in the park. The bill that created the park had been promoted and influenced by Louis Hill, president of the Great Northern Railway and son of James J. Hill. The southern boundary of the park is the railroad.

Having helped create Glacier National Park, Hill set out to create within the park a tourist facility for wealthy easterners who would ride his railroad to the park. Since Glacier’s mountains looked somewhat similar to the Swiss Alps, Hill envisioned the park as America’s Swiss Alps which would draw the wealthy tourists who had traditionally vacationed in Europe. Between 1910 and 1930, Hill commissioned the construction of nine Swiss-style chalets to be built in and around the park.


Lake McDonald Lodge is shown above.

The Great Northern Railway laid out and built most of the early roads and trails in the park. In 1914 Hill made arrangements with the White Motor Company to provide bus services in the park and the following year White Motor Company formed the Glacier Park Transportation Company to operate the buses.

By 1917, the Great Northern Railway had spent more money than the government-about twice as much-in developing Glacier National Park.

In the decades that followed, the National Park Service relied on private enterprise to build, maintain, and promote Glacier’s tourism. In exchange, the company that held the concession received exclusive rights to the tourist business within the park.

At the present time, Glacier Park’s private lodging concession is held by Glacier Park Inc (GPI), but their contract has expired and has been opened for bids.  GPI has an estimated $22 million in possessory interest in Glacier Park and operates properties outside of the park, including The Lodge at St. Mary, Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier, and Grouse Mountain Lodge in Whitefish.  


One of the companies looking at bidding on the concession for Glacier National Park is Xanterra, which currently holds the concession for Yellowstone National Park. Xanterra is owned by Philip Frederick Anshutz who made his fortunes in oil, railroads, telecom, and entertainment. Anshutz purchased Xanterra in 2008.

Tristan Scott reports of Anshutz:

He is a Republican Party donor and supporter of numerous religious and conservative causes, and helped fund a 1992 Colorado ballot initiative designed to overturn local and state laws prohibiting discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

With regard to the environment, the Xanterra website states:

Xanterra’s vision is simple: provide quality services to visitors to our parks and resorts in the most sustainable ways possible. Our 2015 Environmental Vision goals guide all Xanterra employees in our quest to become the most environmentally responsible company possible – protecting our country’s national and state parks along the way.

Queen Anne’s War in the North

In 1702 a war broke out between England and France which would later be known as Queen Anne’s War, the War of Spanish Succession, and the French and Indian War. While the war was fought primarily in Europe, in North America it became a struggle between the European powers for control of the continent. While it was a war between European powers, many Indian nations were drawn into the war over the next decade as allies to the Europeans.  

Following the death of Spanish King Charles II in late 1700 a war broke out regarding who should succeed him to the Spanish throne. Initially, the war was limited to Europe, but in 1702 England declared war on France and Spain and with this the conflict expanded to North America.

In North America, the English colonies were primarily along the Atlantic coast from the Carolinas to New England. While there was some English settlement as far inland as the Appalachians, for the most part the English did not venture into the interior of the continent.

On the northern fringes of the English colonies there were conflicts with the French who occupied the area along the St. Lawrence down to the Great Lakes. The French, who had adopted Indian bark canoes, freely travelled the waterways of the interior trading with the Indians. The French often spoke the Indian languages, married Indian women, lived in the Indian villages, and participated in Indian ceremonies.

The conflict between the French and English colonists was in part over control of the Indian fur trade. On the other hand, there was also religious conflict. The French were Catholic while the English, particularly those in New England, were not only Protestant they were Catholic-hating Protestants. The New English colonists viewed the French Catholics as papist atheists who were doing Satan’s work.

With the outbreak of war between the French and the English, the Abenaki, allies of the French, resumed their raids on the frontier settlements of New England. Most of the other Indian nations in Maine simply wanted to avoid the war and the French interpreted this as a betrayal of traditional loyalties.

In New York, both the French and the English sought to keep the Iroquois neutral in the conflict so that the fur trade would not be interrupted. From an Iroquois perspective, by remaining neutral and trading with both of the European powers, they could continue their dominant position in the fur trade.

In 1703, the French sent 230 of their Micmac and Mohawk allies to raid against the English in Maine. The English increased their anti-Indian rhetoric. In Northampton, Massachusetts, the Reverend Solomon Stoddard urged his parishioners to use dogs to “hunt Indians as if they were bears” and he told his congregation that Indians “act like wolves and are to be dealt with like wolves.”

In 1704, French soldiers together with Abenaki and Mohawk warriors attacked Deerfield, Massachusetts, killing 50 of the English colonists and abducting 100 more. The English responded to the raid by attacking Indian villages in the interior.

The French-allied Indians also attacked the English at Haverhill in Massachusetts, Oyster River and Dover in New Hampshire, and York in Maine.

In 1705, the English colonists attacked and burned the Abenaki village of Norridgewock.

In 1706, the French sent two Jesuit priests to contact the mission populations in Maine and keep them active in the war against the English. The Indians, however, were already engaged in peace talks with the English.

John Williams published his book The Redeemed Captive in 1707 which is an account of his capture at Deerfield in 1704. His story of salvation from heathenism (Indian) and Catholicism (French) made the book a bestseller.  

In 1709, the British Governor met with the Iroquois Five Nations (except for the Seneca) in New York to renew the Covenant Chain (the traditional agreement of peace and trade). The British told the Iroquois that they wanted them to take part in a military expedition against French Canada. The Iroquois agreed to provide the British with 150 Mohawk, 105 Oneida, 100 Cayuga, and 88 Onondaga warriors. However, the English war ships never arrived to supply the invasion and the attack fizzled out before it began.

In 1710, the New England colonists sent a formal Indian delegation composed of three Mohawk and one Mahican to England. The New England colonists wanted to persuade Queen Anne to support the colonial plans for an invasion of New France. In England the Indian delegation was called the “Four Kings.” In their meeting with the Queen, the Four Kings, well-coached by their patrons, asked for assistance. They told Queen Anne the proposal would bring England economic benefits. They also asked the Queen for Protestant missionaries and presented her with several belts of wampum. However, the war ended before the Queen could provide her support for the invasion.

In 1713, Queen Anne’s War between the French and English formally ended with the Treaty of Utrecht. Under this treaty, the Iroquois were considered British subjects and trade was permitted with the western Indians by both the British and the French. As a result of this treaty, the French began to establish a series of military and trading posts in the Upper Great Lakes area.  

American Indians Defeat Winchester Model 1873

Montana state Republicans introduced a bill in the legislature to designate the Winchester Model 1873 as the state rifle and honor it as “the gun that won the west.” However, Native American legislators objected to the legislation pointing out that American Indians couldn’t honor a weapon that had brought devastation to their people. The Democratic Native American lawmakers pointed out that this gun carries bad memories for American Indians. The Republican-led House defeated the bill 61-39.  

Republican Edward Greef supported the legislation saying:

“The rifle is a symbol of this historical era. I urge you not to look at the rifle as a weapon, but as a symbol of a place in time.”

Democrat Carolyn Pease-Lopez said:

“For me this is not so much in the past. I must rise in opposition of celebrating such a weapon as this that brought devastation to my people.”

Pease Lopez

Carolyn Pease-Lopez is shown above.


The lever-action rifle could fire rounds more rapidly than earlier rifles.  The rifle was never adopted by the military. Over 720,000 of the rifles were manufactured by Winchester for civilian use and these were commonly used in slaughtering both the buffalo and Indians.  

Plateau Indian Art

P5746 map

The area between the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountains in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, and Western Montana is known as the Plateau Culture area. From north to south it runs from the Fraser River in the north to the Blue Mountains in the south. One of the most important geographic and culture features of the region is the Columbia River. American Indian people have lived along the Columbia River in permanent and semi-permanent villages for thousands of years. As with other American Indian people, art was not a separate category in their lives, but was a part of everyday life. In museum collections, such as that of the Portland (Oregon) Art Museum, their art is often categorized as carvings (stone, bone, wood), beadwork, and basketry.  







While it is common for people to assume that basketry refers to containers, shown above are some typical examples of Plateau basketry used in making hats.













Cylinder Bags:

Also called Sally Bags and Corn Husk Bags, these bags were made from cornhusk, hemp, string, and yarn using a continuous weave that eliminates seams. Originally, these bags were used for storing foods, such as roots, as the tightness of the weave keeps out dust and dirt.









Columbia River Stone Carvings (Photo Diary)

In a few instances stone carvings have been found in the archaeological sites along the Columbia River. Carved from the abundant basalt many of these figures are relatively small and they are stylistically similar to the many petroglyphs found along the river, These carvings are depict animals found in the area, such as bighorn sheep, condors, seals, beavers, and owls. Many of these figures have small bowl-like depressions in them which may indicate that they were used to hold something. In rare instances, Columbia River stone carvings represent human figures or human-like figures. Shown below are some of the stone carvings on display at the Portland (Oregon) Art Museum.